Illustrado interviews Lope Navo, Filipino International Fashion Photographer. Known for his work for Dior, L’officiel Hommes, Esquire and more, Navo shares his insights, personal story and artistic journey on this edition of Artist Spotlight.
Tell us about yourself. What kind of art do you make? Feel free to include your personal story.
I’m a fashion photographer, but I started off as an oil painter when I was a teenager. I’ve had a strong art history background, and my paintings were exhibited across competitions in Manila, as well as sold to art aficionados when I was in college (where I graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor in Fine Arts).
Throughout my photography career, I was commissioned by many magazines and personalities, including the House of Dior – where I’ve had my pieces exhibited alongside famous photography personalities. As a fashion photographer, I had the rare opportunity to be in several continents for decades – from North and South America, to Asia and Europe. I was born and raised in the east, but grew up in the west.
How did you become passionate about art? What inspires you?
When I was in college, I obsessed over print magazines. I collected many of them as a teenager, and I remember bringing home issues of Interview Magazine, Details, and Detour (all of which are defunct, and now collectibles). I would memorize celebrity portraits and fashion magazine cover I had.
Light inspires me, as well as beauty and symmetry – the even-ness of well lit things. I get inspired by even the most mundane things. I believe there’s no such thing as a boring day, boring city, or a boring people. It may feel like being a shark in a fishbowl, but mundane situations challenge me to become more of an artist.
Have you had any significant events through your artistic career? Exhibitions, showcases, etc. Tell us about your accolades.
I’m the first Filipino fashion photographer that shot for L’Officiel Hommes Magazine, Esquire and Lady Dior – all of which were my biggest paychecks too. Although money is a tool, it also serves as validation, especially working in the Luxury Industry.
‘Carnaval de Cores’ was the title of the piece commissioned by Lady Dior. It world-premiered at Instituto Tomie Ohtake, in Sao Paulo in 2013. It was then curated in the next few years across events across Taipei, Art Basel Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Berlin this year. My work was displayed among the works of other top notch photographers, including Peter Lindburgh, Bruce Weber, Nan Goldin, and even David Lynch.
What can you say about the fashion community? What are the good parts and the bad parts (if any)?
The good part of fashion is that I’m surrounded with a ‘fountain of youth’. I was always in the cool company of like-minded and beautiful people. Though, it can be a double edged sword, as there are also many egotistic and vain personalities. Then again, fashion is also about thinking of yourself, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
What are some of the challenges that you face as an artist? How do you get past them?
The most difficult day in the life of a photographer, especially when you work in fashion, is when you are trying to balance message versus sheer aesthetic.
I ask myself, “Am I taking this photograph because I want to be a political activist? A staunch environmentalist? Or am I a photographer because I want to simply appreciate raw unadulterated beauty in all its simplicity?”
“In the end, I believe that the most effective fashion photographs are the ones with a clear fashion voice. Sometimes, you have to choose between beauty and brains, because it can’t always be both unfortunately.”
What’s your message to artists around the world? Especially with a younger generation of artists on the rise.
There are more fashion photographers now more than ever. Social media has exploded, and now there are thousands of hopefuls who dream of being on the cover of Vogue Magazine. Being privileged to have lived and worked worldwide, I’ve experienced many things. My takeout: the good days bring you happiness, and the bad ones give you experience.
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